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Google, Verizon Look to Sabotage Net Neutrality with Deal [UPDATE: Google Denial]

Google and Verizon are said to be “nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege,” according to an article yesterday in the New York Times. The move would allow companies like Google-owned YouTube to pay to ensure that its content “received priority as it made its way to consumers” and “could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.”

Update: Google has denied that it is in talks with Verizon on its Google Public Policy Twitter account, saying “@NYTimes is wrong. We’ve not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.” Verizon has also issued a statement saying the New York Times “is mistaken”.

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News of the talks comes as the Federal Communications Commission struggles to redefine its role, after an April decision that called the FCC’s legal authority to enforce net neutrality into question.

Net Neutrality is the concept that all information should be treated equally and delivered to consumers equally, disregarding content and source. So, whether you visit YouTube or the website for the local hardware store, information would be treated on equal footing and delivered the same. Net Neutrality has been under constant attack, with opponents of such regulation outspending proponents by more than four to one. This deal looks to go straight at the heart of that concept and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Google attempt such a deal.

According to the Times, a deal could be reached “as soon as next week” and Google would “agree not to challenge Verizon’s ability to manage its broadband Ineternet as it pleased.” Om Malik, founding editor of tech blog GigaOm, writes that news of such a deal should come as no surprise.

Google is trying to make Android a major player in the mobile world. One of the company’s closest partners in this effort, in the U.S., is Verizon Wireless. It would therefore make sense that the two will come to some sort of an agreement.

What wouldn’t make sense, however, would be how this supposed agreement would stand in contrast to Google’s earlier pleas to the FCC to “keep the Internet open – and awesome!“. In its plea, the company specifically says it supports “Adding a nondiscrimination principle that bans prioritizing Internet traffic based on the ownership (the who), the source (the what) of the content or application”.

The Times points out that the agreement would only affect the two companies involved, as well as those using their services, but that “it could sway the opinions of lawmakers, many of whom have questioned the wisdom of the F.C.C.’s plans to oversee broadband service.” The FCC is currently trying to regain its legal authority to enforce net neutrality by reclassifying broadband Internet services into the same category as telephone services, subjecting it to stricter regulation.

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